Police caution ’employee’ for illegally-set trap on Chargot Estate, Exmoor National Park

There was an interesting article published in the Somerset County Gazette at the end of August (here), announcing that the police had cautioned an ’employee’ of the Chargot Estate (in the Exmoor National Park) for animal welfare offences.

This case involved an illegally-set crow cage trap that had been covertly filmed by investigators from Animal Aid in May and June this year. During a period of 44.5hrs of continuous filming, the trap was visted four times by an unnamed individual. However, the trap was illegally-set because although it was baited with food, there was no provision for water, shelter or perches for the trapped birds, and it was also being operated unlawfully because the trapped pheasant (a non-target species) should have been immediately released when discovered – these are all breaches of the General Licence.

[Photo of the illegally-set trap, by Animal Aid]

The Animal Aid investigators gave the footage to the police who then cautioned an estate employee. According to Animal Aid’s version of events (here), this individual was a gamekeeper. But according to a quote in the Somerset County Gazette from the Chargot Estate Managing Director Gwyn Evans:

I do not condone what the employee has done; he has been disciplined. The employee in question is not a gamekeeper, he is a farm worker, and was acting in his own time without the knowledge of the estate.

Hmm. That’s hard to believe. But let’s assume for a minute that the person operating this trap during that period was an unauthorised farmworker. Are we honestly expected to believe that none of the estate’s gamekeepers (and according to this sales briefing from Oct 2017 the estate employs five of them full time) or any other estate employee didn’t notice this trap being used? It’s not exactly inconspicuous, is it? And even if the trap was the responsibility of one of those gamekeepers but it wasn’t supposed to be in use, that gamekeeper has also breached the conditions of the General Licence because when a trap isn’t in use it is supposed to be rendered incapable of holding or catching birds or other animals by either securing the door fully open or removing it all together.

Apart from the all too familiar question ‘Why did the police decide to caution, not prosecute?’ for blatant trap misuse, there are wider implications from this case.

The Chargot Estate, often referred to as ‘iconic’ and ‘prestigious’, is listed on the Guns on Pegs website (a ‘shoot-finding’ service) as being ‘proud to be a ‘BGA assured shoot’:

The BGA is the recently-established British Game Alliance, a desperate attempt by the game shooting industry to be seen to be self-regulating and demonstrating best practice. We’ve blogged about it recently as it hasn’t got off to the best start (see here and here).

We checked to see whether Chargot was actually listed as a BGA member, and yes, it is:

And here’s what the BGA says about its criteria for accepting shoots as a BGA member:

So according to the BGA, all its members have agreed to abide by the BGA’s Shoot Standards and ‘are leading the way with a forward-thinking approach and should be praised as early adopters of self-regulation‘.

Here’s what those BGA shoot standards say about the use of traps:

So according to the BGA’s own terms and conditions, the Chargot shoot has not adhered to the law on trapping. Does that mean Chargot’s membership of the BGA will now be revoked? Probably not, because if you look at #19 of the BGA’s shoot standards, it says shoots will be expelled and their membership revoked ‘where a shoot or its employees are successfully prosecuted for wildlife crimes‘.

In this case, not only could the estate argue that the individual who received the police caution was not a ‘shoot employee’ (because they claim he was a farmworker), but also the employee was not prosecuted – the police chose to issue a caution instead.

Loopholes, eh? If there’s one to be found, you can always rely upon the game-shooting industry to exploit it.

It remains to be seen whether the British Game Alliance will take any action against the Chargot shoot or whether it’ll just turn a blind eye and allow Chargot to continue to enjoy the benefits of being listed as a member.

Along with several other questionable BGA member shoots, Chargot is feted as ‘having demonstrated high standards through best practice in all areas from animal welfare to game handling’ even though it’s been at the centre of a police investigation for wildlife crime / animal welfare offences resulting in an employee receiving a police caution.

Is this a ‘credible assurance scheme‘, as the British Game Alliance claims? Clearly not.

UPDATE 7th June 2022: Chargot Estate in Exmoor National Park under police investigation, again, for alleged illegal trapping and killing of birds (here)

18 thoughts on “Police caution ’employee’ for illegally-set trap on Chargot Estate, Exmoor National Park”

  1. Although I’m not, and have no inclination to be, a supporter of Animal Aid, they are to be congratulated. The police would not have the power to charge the individual without consulting NWCU, who are thus likely to have a hand in the decision. I only brcame aware of this recently.
    Clearly, and in my opinion only, of course, it stinks.

    1. Sorry I was completely wrong. It is the CPS to whom almost all wildlife crimes need to be referred for a decision; “Police forces will identify wildlife crimes when they are submitted to the CPS for decision and
      that all cases within the National Wildlife Crime Priorities (save for poaching which will be
      dealt with by local arrangement) should be referred to the CPS for a charging decision.” This is in

      Click to access MoU_Signed_Final_Document.pdf

      Of course the decision to caution instead of any or all of the offences listed by RPUK and lizzybizzy could not now happen in Scotland where even a caution would not now be possible. There is some hope if my petition succeeds but the Procurator Fiscal Service could still even then make the same decision that perhaps the CPS made in this case.

  2. I’m not sure that’s correct. There are plenty of criminal offences that this person could have been charged with.

    RPUK obviously highlights the most obvious offences regarding the care and welfare of the decoy bird but there is the bird with visible injuries to consider as well.

    Offence 1
    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, S16 Power to grant licences
    S16(1) – A person commits an offence if they do not follow the terms of a licence agreement.

    Licence Conditions for Wildlife Management Licence – General Licence 04 include:

    “4. Where any cage trap is used, then only these bird species may be used as decoys:
    Crow Corvus corone
    Jackdaw Corvus monedula
    Jay Garrulus glandarius
    Magpie Pica pica
    Parakeet, Monk Myiopsitta monachus
    Parakeet, Ring-necked Psittacula krameri
    Rook Corvus frugilegus

    5. All relevant animal welfare legislation must be complied with at all times, including the Animal
    Welfare Act 2006. This includes providing decoy birds with adequate food, water at all times,
    appropriate shelter and a suitable perch that does not cause discomfort to the birds’ feet (see
    Information and Advice note b).

    Offence 2
    Animal Welfare Act 2006, S9 Duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare

    S9(1) “A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

    (2) For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include—

    (d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and
    (e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.”

    Offence 3
    Animal Welfare Act 2006, S4 Unnecessary Suffering

    S4(1) “A person commits an offence if—

    (a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer,
    (b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,
    (c) the animal is a protected (ie captured) animal, and
    (d) the suffering is unnecessary.

    (2) A person commits an offence if

    (a) he is responsible for an animal,
    (b) an act, or failure to act, of another person causes the animal to suffer,
    (c) he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening, and
    (d) the suffering is unnecessary.

    (3) The considerations to which it is relevant to have regard when determining for the purposes of this section whether suffering is unnecessary include—

    (a) whether the suffering could reasonably have been avoided or reduced;
    (b) whether the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with any relevant enactment or any relevant provisions of a licence or code of practice issued under an enactment; …
    (e) whether the conduct concerned was in all the circumstances that of a reasonably competent and humane person.”

    Offence 4
    Protection of Animals Act 1911, S7 Animals in pounds

    S7(1) “Any person who impounds or confines, or causes to be impounded or confined, any animal (including a bird) in any pound shall, while the animal is so impounded or confined, supply it with a sufficient quantity of wholesome and suitable food and water, and, if he fails to do so, he shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.”

    Offence 5
    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, S18 Attempts to commit offences etc.

    S18(1) “Any person who attempts to commit an offence under the foregoing provisions of this Part shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punishable in like manner as for the said offence.”

    1. Wikipedia
      ‘A police caution is a formal alternative to prosecution in minor cases, administered by the police in England and Wales. … Accepting a caution requires an admission of guilt. ‘
      Still the loophole still exists because admission of guilt is not the same as being ‘successfully prosecuted’
      Talk about con artists.

      1. Also a caution is treated in the same way as a spent conviction and thus the culprits name is not made public. Hence even people familiar with the estate are unable to confirm or otherwise that this person was not a gamekeeper.

  3. Most unusual that he was even cautioned, the law are worst than useless as a rule and choose to look the other way. Consider cub hunting which is countrywide. The law look the other way, every time and there has not been one prosecution.

  4. Operators of these traps have so little regard for the target species…usually crows that they often treat them appallingly and have little regards for their welfare..” there only crows” attitude.

    Animal welfare issues may be better served reporting to RSPCA.

    Yet another example of a lost opportunity

  5. You ask if BGA offers a credible assurance scheme … of course they do if one is minded to believe that self regulation is the best way forward. Sadly the general public will fall for the spin and rhetoric.

    But thanks to RPUK and the network, the reality is being broadcast and the criminality underpinning wildlife slaughter is being exposed. One can only hope that it won’t be too long before the politicians realise and get on board properly ….

  6. Can anyone answer these queries?

    It occurs to me that the fact the employee did not comply with the terms of a General Licence is irrelevant because, even if the employee had complied with all elements, he would not have been entitled to a general licence if he was acting without the authority of the land owner or agent. The overview for the licence states “This licence permits landowners, occupiers and other Authorised Persons to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against the species of wild birds listed on the licence.” but I can’t find the legislation which says that using a bird trap in this way is illegal. Is it in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981? I wonder if this is why he was not charged under S16 WCA?

    Also the article states that the employee was cautioned under the Game Act (as well as the Animal Welfare Act). Which Game Act and section would the employee have been cautioned under? I can’t find it.


    1. Re the Game Act, there are only 2 Game Acts and one has been repealed. Therefore it would have to be the Game Act 1831 as amended. I have had a brief look through but I can’t see what the relevant section would be.

    2. I wonder if it’s S16 of the Game Act 1831:
      “16 All appointments of gamekeepers to be registered with the clerk of the peace.
      Provided always, that no appointment or deputation of any person as a gamekeeper by virtue of this Act shall be valid unless and until it shall be registered with the clerk of the peace for the county, riding, division, liberty, franchise, city, or town wherein the manor, lordship, or royalty, or reputed manor, lordship, or royalty, or the lands, shall be situate, for or in respect of which such person shall have been appointed gamekeeper; and in case the appointment of any person as gamekeeper shall expire or be revoked, by dismissal or otherwise, all powers and authorities given to him by virtue of this Act shall immediately cease and determine.”
      Now it would be handy if the person had not been registered. ( I wonder if any are registered?) Thus the employer could claim, with all his digits crossed, that the “farm worker” was not a gamekeeper.
      The CPS could then say “Ah, of course, he can’t be” and asked the police to issue a caution for his acting as a gamekeeper. That hardly demands a charge, does it?
      The newspaper does say the ladder trap was set in such a manner as to be an offence against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but only a gamekeeper could be expected to be aware of that.
      It’s a stretch, but perhaps the employer and the CPS were up for it, even if the police were not.

    3. “but I can’t find the legislation which says that using a bird trap in this way is illegal”

      I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that if the “farmworker’s” actions were not covered by the general licence because he did not have the authorisation of the land-owner/occupier then an offence was surely committed under S1 of the WCA: “if any person intentionally—
      (a)kills, injures or takes any wild bird;…he shall be guilty of an offence”.

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